Innovation isn’t enough. Today’s customer experience ecosystem (a phrase coined by Forrester Research) is essentially a network of customers, partners and employees. Add a mess of cumbersome rules and disorganized technologies and policies to the mix and what do we get? A lumbering player who cannot leverage existing partnerships and thus by default is unable to effectively respond to market changes.

So, why is innovation in the spotlight anyway? Isn’t it a given, especially in marketing? Well, it used to be. The rules of marketing have changed. Today, the task of engaging with customers extends beyond just extolling on the product’s cost and quality. To fill their pockets and achieve fat balance sheets, companies need to understand their customers and establish long-term relationships with them, which incorporate their needs and expectations. To achieve this, customer experience management (CXM) is the way to go. You can innovate, but how does the customer know that there is a new offering, a service or just plain vanilla offerings…a new way of doing things?

Before getting into the nitty gritty of this piece, a few disclaimers are in order: CXM isn’t a technology; it isn’t just a customer touch-point problem. Nor is it just a visibility problem. The best way to define CXM is from a technology perspective. The reason for this is simple-CXM and technologies are two sides of the same coin. CXM may not be a technology, but technology is what makes or breaks it.

Permit me to travel back in time by a few years. When CXM was just a fancy concept the industry read and wondered about, (let’s call it CXM version 1.0) business intelligence (BI) tools ruled the roost for every company wanting to make a dent in the market. To be fair, the concept worked-for several years, in fact. However, all good things must come to an end and BI tools were no exception. Why? Well, simply put, these tools functioned on a simple premise-i.e. history repeats itself. In this case, companies deploying this tool were convinced that mapping a customer’s usage patterns was a piece of cake, as the consumer in question would no doubt opt for the same service over and over and over again. Except that wasn’t the case. Information silos were the norm of the day. And, needless to say, it didn’t do much to help the company achieve greatness. We called this piece ‘Personalization’. Well, the game now isn’t about personalization, it’s about ‘Intent Management’!

Moreover, the smart-alec, prominent franchisors at the time used scientific methods to understand which elements of the customer experience drove customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. These solutions were essentially receipt-based survey invitations to solicit feedback from a large number of real customers each month. With a representative customer sample, they uncovered the key drivers of a positive customer experience using correlations and regression techniques. The questions they managed to answer by this approach were: What mattered the most to customers? What was the most important factor in getting them to return and recommend? How effective is each franchisee location at winning customer loyalty?

As expected, though, this approach didn’t work for too long. Eventually, companies woke up and realized that a shift from a channel-centric, operational mindset to a customer-centric approach is critical for enhancing a customer’s overall experience. The name of the game is transforming today’s existing systems to leverage a ‘unified data architecture’ wherein current data is used to build an intelligence repository that powers innovation and governance in delivering a rich user experience.

In other words (and without using too much of jargon), marketing in the near future boils down to sophisticated systems being packaged into applications made accessible to end users to meet their customized business and personal needs.

Luckily, a host of technologies that fit the bill are currently available in the market. Cloud-based services are a prime example. Now, I understand that every techhie worth their salt fervently believes in and writes about this concept until Kingdom come. I am not advocating it as a panacea to all CXM-related ailments, either. Just that it is indeed (without overstating this fact) a very useful tool.

To illustrate, cloud services enable faster development and delivery of innovations. How? Well, as another example, cloud services vendors like Amazon and have made it easier for their clients to enhance existing offerings and build new products and services by providing developers components that they can weave into their solutions. This reduces the time it takes to roll out new solutions because the developers don’t have to create all elements of their offering from scratch. So, a company providing cloud ERP services can build a manufacturing process application for its clients and a reporting solutions provider can create a reporting platform, on the back of biggies like Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services.

This implies that professionals, whose bread-and-butter depends upon CXM are able to enhance the value they deliver to all constituent groups. This is achieved by giving employees freedom of action to deepen their engagement with the business; incorporating partners into internal teams and conversations to improve decision-making; and creating new digital experiences for clients through components pulled from different cloud ecosystems.

But, wait, there exists a grey area. These guys cannot achieve this single-handedly. Cloud services serving different ecosystem constituents have different owners, often making it difficult to integrate these different platforms. So, a word of advice to these professionals-ensure that you collaborate work with your company’s technology managers to verify the security of these cloud tools, ensure they align with your customer experience strategy, and integrate with the systems from which you need to extract data.

Equally meaningful and equally overexposed is Big Data. In this context, though, it is a very important part of a company’s CXM initiatives. Once again, how? Big Data can be analyzed to discern an overall level of customer satisfaction using a number of KPI such as NPS. A simple text classification engine can be used to process massive amounts of feedback, and discern whether it is positive or negative. In the same way that text classification can discern customer sentiment, it can also produce insights into any issue a customer may be facing. For example, customer feedback classified in this way can highlight problems with price, quality, individual retail stores, literally anything that can be segmented into recognizable compartments.

These roles may seem very simple, but, in reality, go a long way in empowering a company to begin closing the loop with its customers. Consumers who are likely to churn can be identified, and referred to some form of customer retention program. Customers can be contacted in a proactive manner, to address any problems they are facing. Big Data can provide insights into the needs and habits of particular customer segments, this provides the company with a way to begin tailoring marketing campaigns to target specific customer groups.

Net, net, the rise (and rise) of these technologies has proved that effective CXM requires a great deal of agility. This allows the company to respond to customers in real-time and to analyze – and utilize – customer data to determine the best course of action.

The future is here and it is all about personalization and customer user experience. These are exciting times for CXM, all companies are raring to go. But, remember, “innovation isn’t enough.”

Amit Sanyal

Amit Sanyal

Amit Sanyal, Chief Operating Officer - Consumer Value Solutions at Mahindra Comviva, a business focused on Customer Value & Life-cycle Management solutions in the telecom space. A marketer at heart and with over 11...